FOCHTA Vocational Training Centre

Luchenza, Malawi, East Africa

Using our design skills to benefit people who cannot afford our services.

FOCHTA Vocational Training Centre

2015 Luchenza, Malawi, East Africa

We were asked to design a building pro-bono for children orphaned by AIDS in Malawi, east Africa and help the small locally run NGO, FOCHTA, raise the $125,000 needed to build it.

We struggled with a number of questions: Wouldn’t it be better to employ a local architect? Why impose western ideas on Africans? Yet, they welcomed our input and were keen to learn about how we do things. They wanted a Malawian building – but with an Australian sensibility.

Our design principles were to use locally available sustainably resourced materials; assemble them with the best local technology; ensure that the community felt a sense of ownership of the building; and make it robust enough for them to help build it. Together with structural engineer Jamie Shelton and Bonnie Constance of Northrop, the design is an interpretation of the Malawi vernacular.

The formal educational institution has offices, teaching and recreation rooms, and toilets, all linked by covered outdoor spaces, and unified under large pitched roofs and surrounding a small shaded courtyard. More than just a youth education building, it educates youth about sustainability, about climate responsive materials, and their place in the community.


Architecture Plus (Dubai) Issue 13 Inhouse Creative
Belle October 2008

Project Team

Projects Architects in Malawi: Jillian Hopkins (May 2013 – May 2014) and Brendan Worsley (May – July 2014)

In Australia: Sam Crawford, Ken Warr (detailed documentation), Wai-Yee Ho, Lachlan Delaney, Cressida Beale, Miles Heine, Tegan Waldren with Architects Without Frontiers’ volunteers; Tom Williams Moore, Amy Leenders, Eve Baker, Shraddha Raju, Mel Tasker, Jodie Dang
Models: Sarah Presland, Sam Crawford, Miles Heine and AWF volunteers

Consultant Team

Project Manager (Malawi) – Steve Musopole, Arch’Art Lab
Structural Engineer – Jamie Shelton & Bonnie Constance, Northrop Consulting
Hydrological & Geotechnical Engineer – Strider Duerinckx, Whitehead Associates
Engineer (Malawi) – Jon Norton


Anthony Fretwell, Sam Crawford